“You mentioned the Navy, for example, and that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916. Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military’s changed. We have these things called aircraft carriers, where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines,” Obama said.
“And so the question is not a game of Battleship, where we’re counting slips,” the president sniped. “It’s what are our capabilities.”
Turning to Israel, Romney called out Obama for “apology tour” and not having visited the ally since being elected.
“And I think that when the president said he was going to create daylight between ourselves and Israel, that they noticed that as well,” Romney said. “All of these things suggested, I think, to the Iranian mullahs that, hey, you know, we can keep on pushing along here, we can keep talks going on, we’re just going to keep on spinning centrifuges.”
“Nothing Governor Romney just said is true, starting with this notion of me apologizing. This has been probably the biggest whopper that’s been told during the course of this campaign. And every fact checker and every reporter who’s looked at it, Governor, has said this is not true,” Obama retorted.
“And by the way, they noticed that you skipped Israel. And then in those nations, and on Arabic TV, you said that America had been dismissive and derisive. You said that on occasion America had dictated to other nations,” Romney pressed. “Mr. President, America has not dictated to other nations. We have freed other nations from dictators.”
“When I went to Israel as a candidate, I didn’t take donors. I didn’t attend fundraisers. I went to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum there, to remind myself the nature of evil and why our bond with Israel will be unbreakable,” Obama replied. “And then I went down to the border towns of Sderot, which had experienced missiles raining down from Hamas. And I saw families there who showed me there where missiles had come down near their children’s bedrooms. And I was reminded of what that would mean if those were my kids. Which is why as president, we funded an Iron Dome program to stop those missiles.”
Romney, however, wouldn’t “go into hypotheticals” from Schieffer about what he’d do or say if the prime minister of Israel called him to say that the bombers were on their way to Iran.
“Our relationship with Israel, my relationship with the prime minister of Israel is such that we would not get a call saying our bombers are on the way, or their fighters are on the way,” he said. “This is the kind of thing that would have been discussed and thoroughly evaluated well before that.”
“Governor, the problem is, is that on a whole range of issues, whether it’s the Middle East, whether it’s Afghanistan, whether it’s Iraq, whether it’s now Iran, you’ve been all over the map,” Obama said.
Through other talking points about Pakistan — Romney said he wouldn’t “divorce a nation on Earth that has 100 nuclear weapons” — and the greatest threat to national security — “I think it will continue to be terrorist networks,” said Obama — the candidates veered again to domestic policy and again found their strides, including Romney accusing Obama of “the height of silliness” in an exchange over positions on the auto bailout.
In short, Solyndra made it into the evening, while Sudan did not.
The last line before the closing statements? “I think we all love teachers,” Schieffer quipped to wrap a tangle about outsourced jobs, food stamps, and the federal role in schools.
With one last shot to make their cases in the debate forums, both presidential hopefuls turned the focus back home.
“We’ve been through tough times but we always bounce back because of our character, because we pull together, and if I have the privilege of being your president for another four years, I promise you I will always listen to your voices,” Obama said. “I will fight for your families and I will work every single day to make sure that America continues to be the greatest nation on earth.”
“America’s going to come back, and for that to happen, we’re going to have to have a president who can work across the aisle,” Romney said. “I was in a state where my legislature was 87 percent Democrat. I learned how to get along on the other side of the aisle. We’ve got to do that in Washington.”
CNN’s post-debate poll showed 48 percent picking Obama as the winner and 40 percent favoring Romney — like last week’s town hall debate, with no clear winner.
This debate may have dropped more viewers than the previous exchanges. Lawmakers from around the District, though, hung in through the hour and a half to share their thoughts.
“I’m with Pres Obama, you have to be clear about where you stand Gov Romney. Quite frankly, Gov Romney has been all over the place. #flipflop,” tweeted D.C. Councilman Marion Barry. “Hunting ain’t fun when the rabbit has the gun! #Obama2012″
“Obama was not presidential in his sniping at romney,” tweeted Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa). “Obama was burdened during debate bc of lack of accplishment last 4yrs. And no agenda for nxt terms.”